CBS says it's near sellout of Super Bowl ads

By Skip Wollenberg

Associated Press

NEW YORK Ten days before the Super Bowl, CBS has sold all but one of the 30-second commercial spots available on what is expected to be the most heavily watched program of the year. More than two dozen companies have bought Super Bowl ads, and one of about 60 half-minute commercial slots is being held in reserve for a last-minute buyer, CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said Thursday.

CBS executives wouldn’t comment on prices of the ads, but one source close to the network who requested anonymity said the average was a record $2.3 million for a half-minute commercial for the Jan. 28 telecast of the NFL championship game.

That would be a 4.5 percent increase over the $2.2 million average that ABC was reported to have charged for its telecast of last year’s Super Bowl, which set the previous mark for the most costly commercials on TV.

Upward of 120 million people are expected to tune in to at least part of the game between the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens.

Some media buyers have suggested privately that CBS was having trouble even matching what ABC got a year ago, citing a weaker ad market and far fewer free-spending dot-com advertisers.

There were 17 Internet companies selling everything from pet supplies and wedding invitations to financial and technological advice on last year’s game but only three are back the job sites and Ltd., and the online broker ETrade Group Inc.

Super Bowl stalwarts are back like the brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos., soft drink marketer Pepsi-Cola, candymaker M&M/Mars, the courier FedEx Corp. and credit card provider Visa International.

Volkswagen of America is the lone car advertiser in the game. Soda maker Dr Pepper bought an ad. Levi Strauss & Co. is on the game for the first time. MasterCard International Inc. is back after skipping last year’s game. Technology services provider EDS Corp. returns with a sequel to its “Cat Herder” commercial of a year ago. Food and tobacco company Philip Morris Cos. is also back.

CBS sales executives said they made a concerted effort this year to sell ads in packages that included commercials in the pregame and postgame shows, and expect to reap as much as $150 million from network ads during the Super Bowl programs that could stretch over more than 10 hours.